Ferrying yourself to the Greek Isles

It sounds romantic, and it can be, tootling around the Greek Isles at leisure, island hopping by ferry.

Although there are flights to some of Greece’s most popular islands, by far the best way to enjoy the Greek islands is to visit by ferry.  It’s a bit like being an Argonaut: getting on a strange ship, looking forward to the adventures ahead.

Of course, Greece has dozens of islands that are worth visiting, and heaps of shipping companies that can get you there.  You can choose your standard from a super fast ferry, to a luxury cabin on an overnight sailing, to just slumming it in a seat on deck (providing the weather is good, of course).

Assuming that you are leaving from Athens’ main port of Pireaus, you can wander down to the wharves to scan the timetables for a suitable sailing, or you can even book online before leaving home.

The Greeks are master mariners because they’ve been doing it for longer than most, and ferries are the most popular form of transport between the islands.

Unless you are travelling during Greek holidays, you should be able to purchase tickets on the day of travel.  This is good, as it means that you have as much flexibility as you want.  Not all islands are alike, and there will be some islands that you are happier being on than others, so if you find that a particular island is not to your taste, no hassle, simply get the next ferry and get out of there.

Of course, if you are on a time limit then you should do some planning as not all islands are accessible from other islands, and you may have to go through Pireaus occasionally to get between islands.

The other thing to remember is that there is a variety of vessels plying the routes between the islands, and their facilities and comfort levels are of varying standards, so it is best to do your research before you leave home.

Also the islands are grouped differently.  For instance, there is the Western Cyclades group which consists of Kithnos, Sifnos, Santorini, Samos, etc.  Then there are the Eastern Cyclades, and Mykonos and Syros, which are separate again.  There’s also the Dodecanese Islands which includes Patmos and Rhodes, then there’s Crete, which is different again.  Sound confusing?  Just wander around Pireaus and it isn’t really all that hard.

One little tip, there are touts who will try to sell you complete ferry/hotel packages, but if you use reputable travel agencies in Athens and Pireaus, who visit the shipping companies direct, it should work out ok.

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